Ask Barb: Dealing with Recruiter Conflict

Dear Barb:

Business is improving, but now I’m dealing with all kinds of conflict with my recruiters.  They have become extremely territorial and I’m beginning to feel like a referee in my own business.  I’m still the top producer in my firm and can’t afford all the time and energy this is taking away from my desk.  Do I just fire these senior prima donnas and start from scratch?

Judy J., Colorado Springs, CO

Dear Judy:

You need to do what is in the best interest of your company. Conflict is frustrating but many of the issues can be avoided by the existence of a Company Policy Manual. Obviously, some problem areas such as derogatory comments about a co-worker, dishonesty, and unfair screening of candidates are not solved by a Policy Manual.

In order for you to handle conflict you must have a reputation for being fair, consistent, and totally objective. If these characteristics do not describe you, then these are areas you need to improve.

In any type of conflict the ultimate goal is to orchestrate a win/win solution. Unfortunately, this is not always possible and concessions must be made. You must remove the personalities involved in the conflict and reach your decision based on the facts presented.

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  1. Meet with each person involved individually and let them reveal their version of the facts. Take notes and at the end of the meeting, and recap your understanding.
  2. Bring all parties involved in the conflict in your office and discuss the rules.
    1. When one person is talking, the other must listen.
    2. Any objections should be directed at you, not each other.
    3. You will make the final decision.
  3. Discuss the facts that led up to the conflict, utilizing your notes from the individual meetings. Ask for a confirmation of the accuracy of these facts. Make any changes where necessary.
  4. Allow each person to ask three questions. Questions reveal the real issues and help lead you to the solution. Answer the questions raised again, clarifying your understanding of all issues.
  5. Inform all parties that you understand their point of view, but from your perspective this is how this situation is going to be handled:
    1. Outline your solution.
    2. Explain the reasoning behind your solution.
    3. Stress the importance of moving past this one issue, and rebuilding trust between everyone in the office.
    4. Ask the people involved how they plan to solve the problem. (specific examples)
    5. Explain how a cohesive team is vital to the overall success of your company and the part they play on your team.
    6. Announce you are leaving the room for five minutes and that you would like them to talk, shake hands and then return to work.
  6. In an upcoming morning meeting, this conflict will be discussed with the entire staff. Names and specific details are not discussed. You give an overview of the issue and share your solution. The reason for doing this is that your employees will now have an understanding of how you will react to challenging situations! You may show compassion, great understanding, or possibly even a low tolerance level for certain issues. These are important revelations to the people who work for you.

If a conflict arises that is covered by the Policy Manual, you must always follow those guidelines in your decision-making process. Consistency in your decisions can greatly enhance the level of respect you will earn with your employees. There are several sections that should be included in your Policy Manual. Again, this must be customized to the disciplines, specialties, size, and company culture of your recruiting and staffing firm.

It’s important for you to realize you can’t prevent or control what happens. But you do have 100% control over how you choose to react. Both parties involved in the issue also have the same opportunity… they can choose how they react! This is a skill that all recruiters and managers in our profession need to MASTER!

Would you like to Ask Barb a question? Email her at Each month in The Fordyce Letter print edition, Barbara Bruno answers questions from individuals in the Recruiting Profession. We will bring you some of these Q&A responses from Barb each week on

Barb Bruno, CPC, CTS, is one of the most trusted experts, speakers, and trainers in the Staffing and Recruiting Professions. If you want to receive FREE training articles from Barb, sign up for her NO BS Newsletter! Barb has spent the last twenty years focused on helping Owners, Managers, and Recruiters increase their sales, profits, and income.

Her Top Producer Tutor web-based training program jumps-starts new hires and takes experienced recruiters to their next level of production. Barb's cutting-edge program, Happy Candidates, provides you with a Customized Career Portal in less than 10 minutes. Happy Candidates allows you to help the 95% of candidates you don?t place and eliminates the greatest time waster in your business.

If you'd like to contact Barb, call (219) 663-9609 or email


2 Comments on “Ask Barb: Dealing with Recruiter Conflict

  1. Hi Barb. Completely respect your perspective, but time spent doing all of this is time Judy isn’t spending driving her business forward. I’ve been in this exact situation and – call me pessimistic – but people don’t change too much. It’s likely any improvement will be incremental and easily susceptible to backsliding. These problems exist in firms where incentives and compensation promote this kind of “anti-team” behavior. Perhaps a better approach is to look at how you pay your staff and ensure you are motivating the right behaviors. One of the biggest distractions for small business owners is managing personal relationships. Forget that. Have the right people, paid the right way, and focus only on what’s important. Your team is dragging you down in more ways than you can imagine. Best of luck sorting all this all out.

  2. Barb, You missed asking the most important question. How do they currently handle territories? Do they split fees and territories or does each recruiter own a territory? With the firm I worked at for 9 years I owned the SE US for all sales related positions within hi tech. Each of us owned a territory. This prevents any of the problems that Judy is experiencing. This didn’t solve the problem of a client wanting to work with me outside my territory as not every recruiter would handle my clients in the way I would (I solved that problem when I went out on my own). It will solve most, if not all, the issues Judy is having if she considers this model.

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